Ed Atkins (born Oxford; 1982) studied at Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Atkins works primarily with writing, sound and high definition video. His works references literature, particularly the conventions of horror and romance, but does not adhere to traditional narrative form and often uses high specification digital technologies to explore human, corporeal themes.

The Trick Brain combines footage shot by documentary film-maker Fabrice Maze of André Breton’s apartment with new footage and a spoken narrative by Atkins. Breton’s apartment housed his collection of manuscripts, artefacts and artworks connected to the surrealist movement, which the Breton’s family maintained after his death until, unable to find support for a permanent museum, the collection was sold at auction, arousing much controversy. The footage by Maze was part of the official cd-rom catalogue for the 2003 auction.

Atkins describes the film as ‘a meditation on this loss’ layered with ‘a narrative that goes over the top which is this very esoteric meditation on André Breton, Surrealist ideas, esoteric ideas and also strange ideas around capital’[1]. The Trick Brain simultaneously describes the symbolic death of art objects via commodification and the physical death of human subjects ending up as rotting corpses.


[1] Interview with Ed Atkins at the 55th International Art Exhibition (La Biennale di Venezia, 2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiDLzDr0KKY